Meet novelist Kristen Tsetsi

I love how social media helps me connect with like-minded people.

That’s where I met Kristen Tsetsi, who wrote The Year of Dan Palace under the pen name of Chris Jane. I got a chance to listen to the audio version of her novel, which is narrated by Daniel McColly.

Kristen and I have a few things in common:

The obvious: we both think better with a pen in our hand, or fingertips to keyboard. She’s also got a supportive Loved-One who listens while she reads her reviews out loud. Our main characters are male. And, we started writing at a young age.

Kristen lives near Hartford, Connecticut, so like me, she longs for warm long days of summer.

I envy Kristen because she is such a prolific writer, already with three novels published and a fourth on the way in September. On the other hand, she published them with a few years in between, so I feel hopeful that my next novel, May His Tribe Increase, will be read for fans before another year passes.

Other books by Kristen:

Pretty Much True, published in 2014
The Age of the Child, published in 2017

You can find Kristen at You can order her books there or on iTunes or Amazon or Audible. She's also got some great interviews posted there, which I know you'll love because I did.

The Year of Dan Palace is a dialog driven story, which drew me in immediately. What’s causing this metaphysical crisis for Dan? Why does he have these troubled relationships with every woman he comes into contact with? He seems to know how he should behave (having sex with an underage girls is wrong;) yet he can’t stop himself (in two weeks she’ll be 18, and the world could end by then.)

“He drowns in his dreams
An exquisite extreme I know
He’s as damned as he seems
And more heaven than a heart can hold…”

Each character Chris Jane sculpts is beautifully flawed and imperfectly perfect. Kelly Clarkson’s song, “Beautiful Disaster,” kept popping into my head, as I listened to the audio version.

The women in the story are drawn to Dan and at once repelled by him. Each is dancing a dance they know well and unable to change the music. Chris Jane (Kristen) uses Tucker Farling’s Prediction to explore how one man’s life-struggles leads him to embrace what others believe to be not more than a conspiracy theory: A Meteorite slamming into Earth with the force 30 times the strength of an atomic bomb, resulting in an inescapable Ice Age and ending human existence. Farling’s prediction becomes the metaphor for each character’s life-path, regardless of whether he or she believes Farling’s prediction is true.

I love a book that makes me think about the characters days, weeks, and even years later. What are they doing now? Whatever happened to Jenny’s boyfriend? Did Nina come to grips with her loss? When that happens, I know the author has created real, living characters that cannot be contained by the page.

Kristen and I sat down together and talked about writing, reading, and all things publishing.

Actually, I was sitting, and Kristen was out walking her dog! Isn't technology wonderful?

Why did you decide to use a pen name: My first novel was a story told from a woman’s perspective.   Female agents loved it, but it was literary fiction and I was an unknowwn.  The male agents said the “war things” were saturated, and at the same time, there was not enough action. I started wondering what it would be like to have a gender ambiguous name, like Chris Jane.

Tell me a little bit about your writing process:  It takes me forever to get started because I want to get to a point where I’ve thought about it enough to “not be able to not write the story.”  As much as I can, I try to write for four hours in the morning and the rest of the day is for other things.

The characters visit me while I’m listening to a book, taking a walk, or just going about my business.  

I got really involved in writing short stories.  Writing a novel seemed belaboring the point. But I couldn’t express everything about what my characters were going through. It was surreal for me to keep going back to tell more of the story.

John Irving's work influenced Kristen.  He's the author of The World According to Garp and Cider House Rules. One of Irving's influencers was Charles Dickens, whose writing also influences mine.

How did you choose the genre:  When I imagined Dan Palace, I had in mind something that was on the cusp of literary and commercial. Like Irving, it irritates me that a novel has to be in a box.  Genre is too confining.  The story has to be what it is.

How did you get started:  I’ve been writing with regularity since my late teens.  I was 12, the first time I wrote a story and sent it to a publisher. Even though I didn’t get published back then, I had so much fun.  Since then I’ve written for newspaper and been a feature writer.  It was always something I did when I had the time.  I’m lucky that I have a partner that is fine with me not working, so I have time to write.

How did you find your narrator? I found both my narrators through ACX. It’s a bit of a leap of faith to find the right voice and then let go and trust the process. Both narrators worked really well.  I was new to Author’s Direct. It offers a wider range of audio book outlets.

Tell me about Penere Press: Penere Press is my own press. The word Penxher means window in Albanian. I like pulling from my heritage for the name of my press.

Virginia Wolfe was self-published. She started her own press.  In the days of Nathanial Hawthorne, every respected author paid to have their work published. It you weren't willing to put your own money into a publication, it was a sign you didn't have faith in your work.

What’s your biggest challenge:  The white page.  Really. Moving forward from the first scene to the next scene.  Even if I have an outline, going from one scene to another is hard for me.  I am passionately in love with the editing and revising process.

How can someone else do the same thing? Just write what you want to write.  Just tell the story and be honest with the characters.  Beyond that, query agents.  You know your work had better be in pretty good shape to be ready for an agent. That preparation will encourage you to let other people read it. 

Do you remember your first day of school?  I honestly don’t remember, but I do remember preschool. I gave myself a fat lip by running a little red car into something. It was a hard plastic car you sit on and propel it with your feet on the floor.  After that, I decided I would  waited until I was big enough for the BigWheel. I always loved driving . I even became a taxi driver for a while.

What were you like in high school? I was not a very social person.  I had a small group of friends.  I smoked cigarettes and was a terrible student who didn’t like studying.  I tried to cut whenever possible. I was a good kid, but I didn’t like school. My taste in music ran from “Scorpions” to “Depesche Mode.”

Kirsten reminds me that it's good to stretch your comfort zone, but it's also okay to realize where your limits lie.

I recently went to an event where each of us got up and talked about our book in an effort to sell it to people.  I realized that I’m good one-on-one, but I’m not someone who will pursue the opportunity to stand up and talk about her book in front of a crowd.  I can teach at college, I can talk about a subject, but I’m not good at explaining my writing or talking to people about myself. I don’t like talking about myself at all! Really, I don’t like people looking at me while I talk about myself. 

That’s Kristen on the far right.

I hope you enjoyed virtually meeting Kristen.

Please leave a comment and show her your love.